Johnny Gioeli is one dude who apparently do not like to sit idle, rolling his thumbs and make an album a little now and then. Only in 2018, the guy was on no less than three albums – Axel Rudi Pell’s Knights Call, his project with Deen Castronovo (The Dead Daisies, Revolution Saints, ex- Journey, ex- Bad English) under the Gioeli-Castronovo moniker, Set The World On Fire and now his debut solo album. It should also be noted that he also makes records and tours with his own version of Hardline. This album is the result of Gioeli wanted to raise money for a guy from his hometown – Joe Barber – who is paralyzed from an accident so he created a Pledge campaign where a big portion of the money went straight to Barber’s recovery. Gioeli then went to work and wrote this album together with his guitar player Eric Gadrix. The rest of the band playing on this album is bassist Nik Mazzucconi, drummer Marco Di Salvia and keyboardsman Alessandro Del Vecchio with Gioeli’s powerhouse voice on top.
Opening track “Drive” is an uptempo, positive sounding Melodic Rock track that brings on the feel of a hot summer day, driving with the top-lift down. A good-time rocker that’s very distinct and catchy and style-wise brings Bon Jovi to mind, only Jon Bon Jovi could only dream of writing such a good song today. “It” is a mid-paced blend of Pop and Rock with even a slight West-Coast touch to it. It’s a bit laid-back but not slow or ballad-laden and it holds a very memorable main melody and a chorus brilliantly catchy with good dose of hit-potential. Great! The title-track and leading single visits Bon Jovi once again but this time Gioeli seem to have looked back to the days when they were great. It’s a slower and ballad-like rocker that holds more hooks than a fisherman’s hat and a song that fits Giolei’s voice like a charm.
“Mind Melt” is a hook-laden, straightforward Melodic Rock tune with a twitch of mid 90’s alternative Rock and a touch of Classic Rock. Latter day Bon Jovi comes to mind once again but contrary to the New Jersey four-piece, this song is a damn good one. “Running” is upbeat albeit in a mid-pace, a Rock song with a major Pop vibe and acoustic guitars at the bottom. It’s a feel-good Rock track with big hit-potential – very good. “Deeper” slow things down, very laid-back with an overall cozy feel. It’s really a Pop ballad with a soothing and smooth atmosphere. It’s an ok track but it doesn’t really leave a mark on me. “Let Me Know” brings on a laid-back arrangement but at the same time upbeat and comes in a faster pace. This is pure pop-rock with enough hooks to sell and a chorus catchy as Hell. A tune that will probably go down like a storm live. Very good.
“Hit Me Once, Hit Ya Twice” is a heavy stomper with big guitars and slightly Metal influenced guitar riffs. A tough, fat rhythm makes it headbang-friendly and lots of pop-hooks, a memorable main melody and an über-catchy refrain makes this a total winner! “Price We Pay” enters power ballad territory but it’s a dark and quite robust ballad that’s still smooth but I wouldn’t call it slick. The tune gets heavier and more bouncy half-way trough. The huge chorus says Gioeli might have hit on his hands here. Brilliant! “Out Of Here” is a mid-paced yet beefy rocker that’s very direct and punchy with a mid 90’s pop-rock sound and a big Melodic Rock swagger in the vocal-melody. Very catchy, very good. The slow and laid-back “Oh Fathers” closes the album in a melancholy and personal way. It’s a moving and emotional track with a big arrangement and a bigger refrain that sticks without being cheesy one bit. A great tune and dito closing track!
This is a feel-good album. But it still sport some depth, like the closing track written about his late father, but the all-over message here is very positive. Knowing Gioeli’s past and present, it’s also a what you see (hear) is what you get record, meaning that it works in the fields where he’s comfortable – and that is Melodic Rock. Still, this album is not without diversity and it branches out outside the Melodic Rock template. At times, later-day Bon Jovi comes to mind and I know that’s a comment that could deter anyone from buying this record but since the songs here are really damn good it’s not really an issue. As usual, Johnny sings with heart, soul and lots of conviction and the guy’s voice is just as strong as ever with a never-ending range and the musical performances are all flawless. As a whole, apart from the Double Eclipse Hardline gem from 1992 and the Gioeli-Castronovo album, this album just might be the best record from Gioeli so far. Recommended!
3. One Voice
4. Mind Melt
7. Let Me Know
8. Hit Me Once, Hit Ya Twice
9. Price We Pay
10. Out Of Here
11. Oh Fathers